By Stephanie Simons,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire
As the weather warms up on the island, there are lots of walk and races taking place – which means there will be a lot of sore, tired feet in Bermuda. And yet, after all that work, many of those feet will be ignored, or even scorned. We expect a lot from our feet – from daily activities, sports and exercise – yet we give them little in return. It’s time to be nice to our feet.
A foot contains 26 bones and, combined, our two feet comprise a full quarter of all of the bones in our body. Each foot also contains more than 250,000 sweat glands, which can cause issues such as odour and infection.
According to the Bermuda Podiatry Centre, foot disorders are the most widespread, yet neglected, health problems. Seventy-five percent of Americans and Canadians will experience some sort of foot problem in their lifetime.
Foot problems can result from improper footwear; arthritis; congenital problems that occur at birth; infections from bacteria, a virus or fungus; abnormal growth of tissue; and trauma, such as fractures.
Poor foot health can lead to a number of other health problems, including lower backache, headaches, knee problems, indigestion and a misaligned spine. Our feet can also be early indicators for serious health problems such as arthritis, diabetes, nerve and circulation disorders.
For general daily care, buy shoes that fit properly and offer sufficient support. The ball of the foot should fit comfortably in the widest part of the shoe, and there should be a few centimetres between the longest toe and the end of the shoe when standing. Foot size can vary up to half a shoe size throughout the day, so buy shoes at the end of the day when your feet are most swollen.
Change your shoes daily and allow them to air out between wearings. Change socks as well and wear cotton socks that will absorb moisture and keep your feet comfortable. Foot powders and antiperspirant sprays, such as Dr. Scholl’s and Gold Bond can also help keep feet dry and fresh. These can also eliminate smelly feet.
For dry or cracked heels, creams and moisturizers formulated for the feet are best. Look for a product that contains urea or ask your pharmacist what they recommend. To exfoliate the feet, buy a cream with alpha or beta hydroxy acids to do the job.
Corns and calluses are the most common foot problems, followed by warts, blisters and athlete’s foot. Corns and calluses (as well as blisters, a common complaint from runners) are caused by friction and pressure from skin rubbing against shoes; over time corns and calluses build up to protect these areas. Wear shoes that fit properly and if you experience rubbing, use a loose bandage to protect the area, or cover it with moleskin.
Plantar warts are caused by a virus on the bottom of the foot that can break the skin. Although they will eventually disappear on their own, there are several medications available at the pharmacy that can get rid of them if they are bothersome. Ask your pharmacist what they recommend.
Athlete’s Foot is the result of a fungus that thrives in dark, moist, warm areas. It is highly contagious and often contracted in gyms and pool areas. If you have athlete’s foot, keep the area dry and clean and use an over the counter antifungal such as Daktarin (Miconazole), Pevaryl or Canesten (Clotrimazole). Fungal infections can take a long time clear up so be patient and persistent when using an OTC product. If you do not see any results after a month or more of use then see your physician for a stronger prescription item.
Most other leading foot troubles can be eased or even reversed by wearing a proper fitting shoe, the appropriate shoe for your activity and sometimes using orthotics. Orthotics are available from Dr. Scholl’s, or custom orthotics might be necessary. Visit your doctor to determine the best treatment for your foot problems.
Leonardo da Vinci proclaimed the human foot to be a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art. Let’s show them the same respect! Step up your daily foot care routine and your feet, and you, will be happy and healthy.
Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.